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Antigua and Barbuda raises stakes in US gambling case

published 18 June 2007 updated 18 June 2007

The Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda is threatening to escalate its fight against US restrictions on cross-border Internet gambling by encouraging other countries to make WTO compensation claims for Washington's decision to modify its WTO services commitments.

Last month, the United States announced that it would change parts of its market access schedule under the GATS to remove the gambling concessions and correct what officials say was an "oversight".

In order for a member of the WTO to modify its schedule of services commitments, they must first enter into negotiations to discuss ways to compensate other members. If no agreement is reached, other members may call for a WTO panel to determine the appropriate level of compensation. WTO members have until mid-June to file a claim, after which the United States will have three months to complete negotiations with the claimants. The only other time a WTO member was forced to negotiate compensation over a change in their services commitments was when the EU amended its GATS schedule to take account of EU enlargement in 1995 and 2004.

In a statement released in early May, the Office of the United States Trade Representative said it was unlikely the United States would agree to any compensation claims from Antigua or any other WTO member.

"[S]ince no WTO Member either bargained for or reasonably could have expected the United States to undertake a commitment on gambling, there would be very little, if any, basis for such claims," USTR declared.

In response, Antigua and Barbuda says it is planning to proceed with a separate claim for WTO authorization to impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to comply with a trade body ruling that found the gambling restrictions to be inconsistent with the GATS.